Monday, December 14, 2015

A Long December

Well, as I predicted in my last post, I made it through 30 days of posting every day only to not write a word for almost two weeks.

Okay, that's not entirely true. As I also wrote in my last post that I mostly wanted to get back to writing for me, and then promptly wrote a post that I'm trying to get published elsewhere. We'll see how that goes. #batmitzvahangst

So, basically no writing for all of you here at BSB. While I can't blame the weather, at least this time around, December remains one of my least favorite months. It's not all bad, but it's generally long, dark and too busy, until it abruptly halts when the rest of the world shuts down for Christmas and I have nothing to do. Thought I really do appreciate how well the weather has been holding up so far this month. I kinda like you, Global Warming.

My last work trip, approximately 36 hours in Tel Aviv, Israel, can only be summarized as surreal. Less than two years after my last trip to Israel, which that time was 20 years in the making, well, it was just weird to be there for only business purposes. I got driven around to all of my meetings, and only had about an hour of free time on my own, which I spent walking along the Mediterranean. It was beautiful but I was tired and lonely. I hope the next time I make it back there, the circumstances are different.

Then after a couple of hectic days getting acclimated back to the real world, Hanukkah began. (Remember my December Non-Dilemma post? I've seen so many like it this year.) The kids were very happy with their presents this year, including two-in-one tablet computers of their own, so that we're all no longer competing with each other for computer time. This had come to a head this year as both kids had a lot of homework on the computer, and so Marc eliminated that arguing with refurbished laptops. We had some very excited kids.

We had our annual latke dinner with Julie, Mike and Maya, attended a Hanukkah party at synagogue where Max sang with his chorus, and one with Marc's family in Connecticut. We also fit in a middle school chorus concert and an all-city chorus concert this past week. I'm always happy to have eight days to celebrate, but I'm always happy to see the eight days come to an end too. I've just stuck our wax-covered menorahs in the freezer, hoping it helps ease off the wax. Maybe I'll be a bit more prepared when we get back to this next year.

The other big news around here is that Hannah was selected to be an understudy for her middle school musical, "Oklahoma!" She gets one performance as Ado Annie, and then spends the rest of the shows as a farm girl, but she is over the moon to have gotten such a big role as a lowly sixth grader. It's a ton of rehearsals and a huge commitment, but I am so proud of her. She's really adjusted well to all of the extra work of middle school, and I'm sure this will be an exciting challenge for her.

We're also looking forward to seeing both kids in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the end of January. Max has taken it all very seriously and I think he could do a one-man production of it. I wonder where he gets that from... ;)

How are you holding up this December?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Made It - #NaBloPoMo 30

It's my last post of National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I've enjoyed getting back to writing every day, even if it's only been a few words, but I'm also ready for it to be over. Traveling this week, Hanukkah next week, and general end-of-the-year chaos would make this very hard to sustain into December.

This time, I have no great insights to share with you all. I've just made it through. I've loved reading along with a few of my friends who did this insanity with me, but I look forward to reading their posts anyway. Reading them every day didn't make it any more or less enjoyable. I've discovered that I have about 75 readers I can count on for a daily post, which is interesting. Some of these were so boring, or so short, that I didn't even throw out the link. As I've learned from doing this before, I rarely feel the urge to share these posts more than once. I think it also means I've shared fewer things on Facebook and Twitter overall, and I don't feel like I tried to tackle anything in a serious or in-depth way this month. I just wrote.

I hope that it's okay, that just me writing is enough sometimes. I do think that's what I wanted my blog to be anyway. Just me writing. I think I got a bit lost in some grander ambitions over the past few years. Not that they were bad things, but maybe beyond the scope of what I really want to do. I've had a few people recently say things to me like, "you work in the theater, right?" or "you're just a blogger, right?" and I felt like they were stabs in my heart. I'm proud of the work that I do here, and did for Listen To Your Mother, but it shocked me to realize that people had no idea what I do in real life (it says it right there, on the right-hand panel, for those of you who don't know). Not that I'm super-descriptive about it here, but I'm proud of my real, paying job too. I think I realized that competing to get the so-few freelancing and paid opportunities that are out there meant taking an opportunity from someone who really needs it, and I don't have the energy for that right now. I know when the lightning strikes, when I do write something special, and I'll save my energy for those moments. I don't think I want to fight so hard to make those moments happen though.

So maybe I did learn something from NaBloPoMo, after all. Maybe just me, writing, is enough for me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Night Before - #NaBloPoMo 29

The view from my last hotel. The next one will look nothing like this.
I'm leaving for another business trip in the morning. It's my third trip in about three months time, and it's starting to feel more normal to pack up my suitcase and go. Even packing, which you all know I dread, didn't seem as bad today.

I've been really looking forward to this trip, and I really hope it's a success. But I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about how it's going to go, and about things that I'll be missing at home. I'm nervous about all that I'll be coming back to as well, as things turn super-busy for the last few weeks of the year and Hanukkah begins and then it's the kids birthdays and and and.

I'll feel better once I'm in the air, or even at the airport gate. This in between time, when you're ready to go but can't leave yet, is hard. My mind is already in the game, but torn about wanting to be home. I wonder if I'll ever not struggle with wanting to be on to the next thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Quiet - #NaBloPoMo 28

Other than attending services this morning, it's been a quiet day here. I finally folded and put away a bunch of laundry, and started more. Did some dishes. Hannah went to a friend's house. Max entertained himself.

Quiet is good.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Nutcracker with the Boston Ballet - #NaBloPoMo 27 #Hosted

courtesy of Boston Ballet

Disclaimer: The four of us were invited to a dress rehearsal performance of Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. As always, all opinions are my own.

Marc, Hannah, Max and I were thrilled to be invited to an exclusive parent blogger performance of Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. As many of you know, I don't often take advantage of the many blogger opportunities, goods and services that come my way, but we couldn't resist this one.

Courtesy of Boston Ballet
The production was simply fabulous. The set, costumes, and of course, the dancing, were all amazing. Tchaikovsky's music comes right to life no matter how many times you've heard it before. I was most impressed by the child dancers in the show--that is a serious commitment! (I'll try to keep that in mind when I'm driving my kids to their local activities!)

We made a bigger day out of it by stopping for dinner out and then visiting my new office, too!

Here are the official Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker details:

The Nutcracker includes the full company of 57 dancers, 11 Boston Ballet II dancers, and 217 Boston Ballet School students. The 42-performance run will feature many never-before-seen casts, showcasing the vast talent within the Company, and providing many opportunities for dancers to shine in Soloist and Principal roles. Each performance will be accompanied by Tchaikovsky's renowned score, performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra, led by Principal Conductor Jonathan McPhee.

Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker is based on the libretto by Alexandre Dumas père titled The Tale of the Nutcracker, which is adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The story follows the wondrous journey of young Clara, who receives a nutcracker as a gift at her family’s Christmas Eve party. Later that night, her nutcracker magically transforms into a handsome prince, who leads her through an enchanted forest and on to the Nutcracker Prince’s Kingdom.

For a full synopsis and additional details, visit Performances take place at the Boston Opera House from November 27 - December 31. Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit or call 617-695-6955.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! - #NaBloPoMo 26

We made it through our first self-hosted Thanksgiving with our kids, my in-laws and sister-in-law and her family. 

From pumpkin bread and hot chocolate...

To the main event (photo collage courtesy of Hannah)...

To the pie...

And everything we have to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The First and Last Things - #NaBloPoMo 25

Morning Mist by Always Shooting (unaltered) on flickr
My favorite blogging tribe has decided to all tackle the same topic on our blogs across the country and into Canada today. It's actually hard for us all to agree on one topic to write about, and that's probably my fault since I nixed so many food-related ideas (although I just made my first ever batch of cranberry sauce, which I think turned out well, but I digress). So we're writing about the first and last things we do in the morning and at night.

And just like Phyllis, I look at my phone pretty much the first and last things I do. And also in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.

I blame work, and my international clients that email at all hours, and that's partly to blame for sure. My work moves and evolves so quickly, and if I stay on top of my email, it really helps me to feel less overwhelmed than when I come back to a bulging Inbox. And sometimes, you find out that the video conference you needed to wear a suit to attend is now a conference call, and the regular black pants will work just fine. It also means I spend many a 2-3 am strategizing about how to write a memo or compile data for a report. I know that this isn't great for my sleep, but I also know that this part of my life isn't likely to last forever, and for now, this is what works best for me.

When it's not work to blame, well, it's the entire Internet. There's more to see than can ever be seen. I love having an entire world in the palm of my hand, and I'll never not love that. Whether it's social media or blogs or some breaking news item (an Amber alert had me up and Googling a few weeks ago), it's me and my phone. Or it's some reality TV that I don't find too stressful. Scandal is definitely too stressful for me to watch before bed. Scandal is too stressful for me to watch with the lights off!

The kids still have a bedtime routine that they want adhered to on most evenings. Marc or I sing the Shema in Hebrew, and then I continue the V'ahvta in English, while Marc prefers Hebrew. Then we say, "Good night, sweet dreams, laila tov (good night in Hebrew), I love you." I don't know how we settled on those four phrases. Some nights, they're said with a bit of exasperation, sometimes a little breathless from kisses that turned into tickles and tackling hugs, but always the same.

When I wake the kids, it's usually a "good morning Hannie-princess" or "good morning prince Max" and I have NO IDEA how all of that started with me. I never call them princess or prince otherwise. But I do believe that waking them with a smile, regardless of how tired I might be, it helps. If I'm waking them for the third or fourth time though, all niceties are out the window.

How do you start and end your day? For more from my blogging pals, check out the links below.

My Cheesesteak Not Cheesecake Tribe (more links to come once all are posted!):
Phyllis of Napkin Hoarder
Melissa of A Wide Line
Kimberly of Red Shutters
Danielle of Another Version
Lisa of What Makes a Family

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Staging - #NaBloPoMo 24

These are some well-staged photos. I'll be saving them in case we ever need to list the house for sale. Hopefully, that's not for a very long time.

Here's the "not done but presentable" new living room space. 

Tonight, the empty room is filled with cousins and beanbag chairs. Pretty cool.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tonight's Project - #NaBloPoMo 23

NaBloPoMo wasn't created for people trying to finish details of a renovation before Thanksgiving. Marc is attempting to install 21 blinds on the first floor of the house tonight. 

Have I mentioned how over cardboard boxes I am? It's almost enough to get me to stop shopping online. 

Something more substantive to come, at some point. But not tonight. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Max's Thanksgiving - #NaBloPoMo 22

Max is very excited to be hosting his first Thanksgiving at our house. He spent some time getting ready today. 

Here's his "it's time to place Thanksgiving" seating cards. 

And here's something Thanksgiving-themed Mad Libs and Tic Tac Toe. 

I think he's the most ready of all of us. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Distractions - #NaBloPoMo 20

I've been working from home today as my belongings at work are being moved to our new space today and this weekend. I got to spend a few minutes in my new office yesterday, trying to soak it in a bit, as I'll only have one day in it next week before I'm taking time off for Thanksgiving and then heading out on another work trip.

It's been good to be home, as honestly, I've been able to think about very little other than the murder of Ezra Schwartz, which I wrote a bit about yesterday. I read an article where a friend from camp discussed being friends with him since they shared the same assigned table in the dining hall. That detail broke my heart and left me in tears, as this summer was the first that Hannah had mixed assignment tables at camp, a big deal to her. Other photos of him at camp, in the lake, playing with campers, posing with his friends. It's surreal.

So I'm looking for distractions. I dove in to work this morning, getting hours of work done before eating breakfast. I took a break and finally finished installing the light fixture in our closet, which had few dozen crystal balls that needed to be individually hung. It was a good accomplishment, and it looks lovely.

On to the next distraction.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When You're Gone - #NaBloPoMo 19

Just before arriving home tonight, I got the news that a former camper and counselor at the overnight camp that Hannah attends, and where I am a member of the Board, an 18 year old boy, was killed by a terrorist in Israel today. Hannah knew Ezra Schwartz and is the same age as one of his younger brothers.

Frankly, there are just no words.

Yesterday's #NaBloPoMo prompt was the question, "What do you hope people remember about you after you're gone?" I thought about it for a few moments, but it wasn't something I wanted to write about. A legacy is something I don't even want to think about at the age of 38. I don't think many 18 year olds spend much time thinking about it either, but tonight, tributes and remembrances are pouring in.

I didn't know Ezra, but tonight I join those who did and mourn his all too early loss. May his memory be for a blessing for all that knew him. And may we stop the need for this near-constant mourning in the world as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Things I Saved On Facebook - #NaBloPoMo 18

The best functionality that Facebook has ever introduced is by far the "Saved" function. When I'm scrolling through Facebook when I don't really have time to read a longer article or watch a video, being able to save it for later and know that it's not forever lost to the wind is fabulous. I usually forget about what treasure I buried in the Saved section, and when I do get back to it, it's always a treat. Here's a few tidbits from the Saved pile.

This bit of fun from Scary Mommy shows a man's vacation video in Las Vegas, only it was taken entirely in selfie mode instead of forward-facing. I remember when my Dad used to take tons of vacation videos of the scenery; this version is actually more entertaining.

I love choreographed wedding-related items, whether it's proposal flash mobs or creative first dance routines. Marc and I spent weeks in ballroom dance lessons to avoid blowing our first dance, but we didn't have a videographer or camera phones back then, so our first dance isn't on tape anywhere. This one is much more impressive anyway.

And finally, there's my weekly dose of Whine About It. This week is a particularly worthy thing to whine about: pants. As he says, "my pants are just a mosaic of all the mistakes that I've made. I don't need that kind of documentation in my life." Amen.

S2 Ep. 4: Reasons Wearing Pants Is The Absolute Worst
Posted by Matt Bellassai on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kitchen Details - #NaBloPoMo 17

How the kitchen connects to the new space
I haven't really written about the house in detail since we completed the renovation, and that's because I don't think of it as "done" yet. The building permit is gone and we haven't had workers in the house in weeks, but there are still various parts of the house that need unpacking and moving into, or new furniture and accessories, or just more thought on how to use the space. We're getting there little by little, ordering blinds and trying to make sense of where the couch should go, but it's a process. Overall though, we're really happy with the changes and I think it'll only get better with time.

One of my favorite things is the access we have from the kitchen into the new back room of the house. We're still figuring out how best to use the room, and I think that includes settling on a name for the space too. The photo above shows the old kitchen off to the left and the connection to the new room on the right. And it shows some of the messes we have yet to put away. And the folding table I haven't bothered to move since Thanksgiving is a week away and we're hosting for the first time.

Here's a close-up of a Hanukkah present Marc bought for me a couple years ago, a clock with Hebrew letters. It's a modern update of a Hebrew letter clock that had been in my grandfather's living room for years, that I always wanted. The green dot matches my counter tops, and the light blue now matches the wall paint.

Hanging on the opposite wall, we now have this photo of tomatoes, which mimics the clock's multi-colored circles so, so well. I don't even like tomatoes that much, but I can't stop looking at this new art. It's like it was always meant to be a part of our home.

Here's one more photo of the new downstairs space. As I said, the blinds are coming. We haven't figured out a proper cushion for the window seat yet. There are still a few boxes. But the piano is getting daily use, and the new washer and dryer (just outside of the frame!) have been life-changing. The goal is to get this space a little more presentable over the next week, and I think we can do it. Presentable is one thing. Done is totally another.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Best Sp@m - #NaBloPoMo 16

Thank goodness for the swift response of Twitter. I had nothing worth saying this evening for NaBloPoMo. But now, you get to see inside the oh-so-fascinating world of spam blog comments!

Actually, I have to admit, the spam comments have gotten better over the years. The mangled English is at a minimum, and the Blogger platform does a really good job of keeping these comments out of my inbox. It's a shame though, as some of them are so complimentary that I almost want to post them. Like this Anonymous gem:
I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don't know who you are but certainly you're going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers! Take a look at my web page...
 Or this shiny one, also by Anonymous:
This post is worth everyone's attention. How can I find out more? Here is my page...
 And some people are just so helpful!
I'm not sure why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I'll check back later on and see if the problem still exists. My webpage...
Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? Er, breakfast:
An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast simply because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this issue here on your web site.
It almost makes you want to start a blog, right? Of course, there are the real comments too, from people who find you "dangerous." Such a shame that the blogger behind that sentiment doesn't appear to maintain her site anymore.

Of course, there are the real, amazing make every typed word worth it comments too. I thank you for those, and hope they keep on coming. It'll keep me from approving the fake nice ones.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What's Missing - #NaBloPoMo 15

It's the last few hours of the weekend, a weekend many spent learning the details of the latest terrorist actions around the world. But not me.

I spent the majority of my weekend in activities centered around our synagogue and the community it provides for me and my family. We attended services, a study session, a parent-teacher conference, play practice, and a discussion group for 6th grade girls, while the moms got together in a local restaurant.

Terrorists might spend their weekends organizing for whatever they believe in too, I guess. But I'll never understand what makes their discussions veer in harmful directions, where others spend their time enhancing culture, shaping the lives of children, or deepening their understanding of differences and working towards acceptance. What's missing that leads people towards terror instead?

I don't believe that it's mental illness, or access to guns, although I think we need more support for treatment and less access.

I think people are missing options. Opportunities. And they're missing loving, guiding forces for better in their lives.

It's not much, but I hope, even with a few words here once in a while, that I help foster a sense of connection, community and concern for the community I care about. Because you never know who can provide what's missing.

I Wasn't Expecting That - #NaBloPoMo 14

Yea, yea, I forgot to post yesterday. We spent almost the entire day at a Shabbaton for Hannah's upcoming bat mitzvah, and I am overwhelmed. It's so much to think about, and no one "right way" to do it, and I guess it all comes down to expectations. As I've blogged here before, when Marc and I got counseled by a rabbi prior to our wedding, his biggest advice was about managing expectations, and I've been struck over and over again how true it was and is.

It's not exactly the same, but this song always leaves a lump in my throat, so I thought I'd share it this morning.

Friday, November 13, 2015

An Ideal Day Off - #NaBloPoMo 13

I'm mining the prompts for NaBloPoMo today, as I couldn't think of a topic myself. The question is how I'd spend an ideal day off, and I can think of many options there. 

But I think the true ideal is seeing a Broadway show in New York City, and great food. I loved how we spent Hannah's last birthday with one extreme day spent doing just that. And now it's got me thinking that maybe we should do it again this winter break. 

A close runner up is spending a day at a spa with friends. I haven't done it much, but it's always been fabulous when I do. It's hard not to find that relaxing. 

What else? Live music. Fun shopping. Getting my nails done. Catching up with family and friends. Time spent writing. 

What about you?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Out of Steam - #NaBloPoMo 12

It's been a long week. 

I left the house at 6 am on Monday, flew to Jacksonville, flew back on Tuesday night, attended a work event on Wednesday night that got me home at 9:45 pm, and left for work again at 6:45 am this morning to make it in for an 8 am conference call. I've had sixteen meetings in four days. I have a minor cold too, and am kind of amazed I haven't lost my voice. So I'm pretty excited to work from home tomorrow. I've only got one conference call, but a few personal calls I'd like to make too: rescheduling an eye doctor appointment, making a dinner reservation, possibly investigating a hotel block for Hannah's bat mitzvah. But tonight I am out of steam and very tired of hearing myself talk. 

Thankfully, Max seems to be in a quiet (very rare!) mood too. It's nice being quiet together. 

Shhhh. I'll be the one over here struggling to keep my eyes open until the 7yo's bedtime. G'nite. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The View From Here - #NaBloPoMo 11

Other than a slight pivot to the right so that I'm facing both computer monitors, most days that I'm in the office, this is my view. I've been in this space for more than two years, and I love it. I don't have a single complaint. I've loved that door and all the privacy that shutting it affords me. I've loved the proximity to the water cooler, and, ahem, the bathroom. It's not an enormous space, but I don't feel closed in. My chair is comfy. I have plenty of drawer and cabinet space. It feels like an extension of who I am. And I've only got one more week left in it.

We move to a new floor (same building) in just over a week, and I'm sad. It's a significant step up for me in terms of office pecking order, as I'll now have an external office with a gorgeous view of downtown Boston. And I am kind of excited about that. It's been over 10 years since I've worked near a window, and I guess that will be nice. But there won't be room for my Jackson Pollock print, or nearly as many photos of my kids. And I'll have to erase these whiteboard memories of moments when they visited me at work.

I've seen a lot of things change while I've had this view. A lot has changed about me too. I'm going to miss it.